Singapore Airlines’ Restaurant A380 @Changi took off to much fanfare over the weekend, with hundreds of diners (ourselves included) travelling all the way to Changi Airport to hop on an A380 plane, eat, maybe watch some inflight entertainment, and disembark three hours later, without the plane ever leaving the tarmac.
At least we didn’t have to pack our luggage for the experience.
While Singapore Airlines scrapped its flights to nowhere amid social media hullabaloo, our national carrier instead launched these pop-up dining experiences on two of its A380 planes parked at the airport. Tickets sold out within half an hour, so SIA opened up more dining slots. Then that all got snapped up too (there's still a waitlist). Never mind that meals cost from $50++ for Economy class up to $600++ for a Suites experience.
As for us, we tried the Business Class meal experience, which was priced at $321. Was all the hype surrounding SIA’s non-flight to nowhere worth it?
Here’s how our Business Class dinner experience on SIA’s Restaurant A380@Changi went.
As if dining on a plane that doesn’t move isn’t strange enough, arriving at a cold, empty-ish Terminal 3 at Changi Airport was a little sobering, if anything. To check in for our flight, we had to surrender our passport for the duration we were in the transit area for the event.
We’re ushered to gate, one of the terminal’s mega holding areas that houses gates B1 to B4, where hundreds of travel-starved folk are waiting to board one of two planes for dinner.
Not your usual pre-flight activities
Diners were urged to come early as there would be a host of activities happening pre-dinner, including batik rose-making workshops, a heritage showcase and aircraft tours. But it wasn’t just fun and games — social distancing reminders were everywhere.
We were due for a tour of the A380 aircraft, conducted in groups of five by SIA employees who volunteered their time to be part of these activities. In 20 minutes, we were taken through all four cabin classes, including the six swanky Suites onboard.
We also got a peek at the flight crew rest pods and the cockpit, but photography isn’t allowed at these areas, so here's an envy-inducing pic of the Suites that's been spiffed up to look like it would if it was actually in service.
After the tours wrapped up, we waited for about an hour for the aircraft to be sanitised and readied for the actual dining experience.
Fifteen minutes before we board the plane, an event emcee announced that the cabin crew could board first. What we weren’t expecting was a catwalk-style parade by the crew. As they sashayed down the aisles to their respective gates, passengers thronged the sidelines for photos and videos. You'd be forgiven for thinking Blackpink or BTS was in the house. If this isn’t testament to how much people miss flying/the Singapore Airlines experience/chatting up the cabin crew, we don’t know what is.
On the plane
We made our way on the upper deck of the A380, where there's an entire level of Business Class seats (all 78 of them) and six Suites. The cabin crew were all smiles and couldn't look happier to be back at their day jobs. "Ma'am, can I show you to your seat?" someone asked. We almost felt like we're on vacay (yes, we’re those people whose holiday begins the moment we board the plane).
This is the seat we were cocooned in for the next three hours. It all looked and felt just like pre-Covid-19 times, but not quite.
There's a care kit placed at every seat, just like it would be on an actual flight now. Each one comprises antibacterial wipes, hand sanitiser and a disposable mask.
The view from our seat didn't ever change in the three hours we were there, clearly. But we didn't mind that we didn't get to IG story a pic of fluffy clouds because: 1) food was about to arrive; 2) when was the last time you IG storied the sky on a night flight anyway?
So what do you get for SIA’s $321 Business Class meal on the A380 restaurant?
The six-course Business Class meal comprises a satay starter, an appetiser, main course, dessert, and a cheese and fruit platter, as well as drinks (alcoholic and non-alcoholic).
After we settled in, the cabin crew made their way down the aisle to proffer Singapore Slings to passengers. Admittedly, it’s not our usual poison of choice, but hey, nothing about eating on a plane that doesn’t take off is normal, so we happily accepted the drink.
It's followed by the airline's signature chicken satay — hefty chunks of chook under a heap of peanut sauce. We could have more of this, but there’s still the main meal to leave space for.
There were two options for the main Business Class meal — an international selection or a Peranakan menu designed by homegrown chef Shermay Lee. We’d pre-selected the latter.
The appetiser was an intentionally retro dish of chicken, prawn and jellyfish salad with coleslaw dressing. It's served with a pandemic-appropriate plastic cover over the dainty porcelain plate (“For hygiene purposes,” the cabin crew cooed.)
Our main course is a nasi lemak - this elevated version was served with sambal prawns, tangy tamarind tumeric fish, fried ikan bilis and coconut rice.
By this time, we’re getting a little full, and were taking our time to polish off the main course. Helping us along were the attentive crew who are astoundingly sensitive to the sight of half-filled wine glasses, and were ever ready to top them up with more sauvignon blanc while we finished our meal.
True to the spirit of Shermay Lee’s menu, dessert was a luscious gula Melaka ice-cream wedged between two wafer biscuits, an atas but nostalgic take on the traditional local ice cream sandwich. “Can I offer you a cheese and fruit platter too?” the crew asked. Whoever says no to cheese?
Throughout the non-flight, the mood was light and everyone, especially the crew, seemed upbeat about the experience. Passengers were chatting with flight attendants about everything from the impending Singapore-Hongkong travel bubble, to pretending like we're on an actual flight ("luckily got no turbulence today!")
A few people were watching movies (yes, inflight entertainment is available onboard) while they ate; others are happily snuggled up in their Biz Class seats doing their own thing (read: scrolling through their phones, probably appreciating the fact that they could finally be on a plane and Instagram up a storm without worrying about data).
And all too soon, the cabin crew appeared once more, this time they were bearing gifts. Tote bags with Singapore Airlines swag, to be specific. “This goodie bag is to thank you for joining us today,” they explain. We didn’t know it then, but this signals the end of the experience.
Almost three hours had, ahem, flown by all too quickly, which is more than what we can say for some actual flights we’ve been on. Heck, you even forget that the plane had not moved at all in this time… well, until you actually get off the plane and realise you’re not at all jetlagged. In fact ,we feel like we'd just been teleported to pre-Covid-19 days, if only for a few hours.
The next Restaurant A380 @Changi sessions are on Oct 31 and Nov 1 and are sold out. Waitlist available at https://www.singaporeair.com/home/waitlist.form?classDining=business.
Photos: Jasmine Teo